Reds entertain leaders Ards

Larne boss Graham McConnell
Larne boss Graham McConnell
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Larne, engaged in what manager Graham McConnell describes as a ‘mini league’ in their battle for survival in Championship One, have a break from the rigours and pressure of the series of six-pointers this Saturday. But, if anything, the task confronting them is as close to mammoth as it gets in this division, because the visitors to Inver Park are champions-elect, Ards.

“One defeat in 19 matches against all opposition in this league speaks volumes for the quality of this Ards team, so it’s a mighty tough test for us,” the Inver boss told the Times.

“Niall Currie seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to this league. He steered Loughgall to the title three or four times when they didn’t have the licence to get promotion, but he will finally get to test his skills against the top men in the country next season, because they have relaxed the rules now and you can get promotion by what you do on the field.

“There’s no question that they will go up this year and they have earned it. And that’s good for Niall who definitely seems to have the magic formula. Indeed, after the match on Saturday I intend to ask him for some advice on what ingredients are required to win regularly matches at this level.

“But don’t let that fool you into thinking that we are going into this game with an attitude that we can’t beat them. We know that we can cause an upset if we play as well as we can do, and that will be how we will approach this very important tie.”

The former goalkeeper admitted he was left disappointed by Saturday’s scoreless draw with Loughgall, ahead of Tuesday evening’s crunch game with Bangor.

“They [Loughgall] came with an attitude and style of play which suggested they were a lot more interested in not losing than they ever were in winning. Larne were the only team wanting, or trying, to win that match on Saturday.

“The players tried their best to break them down but it’s never easy against a team who are laid out to stop you from being creative. The players did everything they were asked and I give them full credit for their endeavours,” insisted the manager, whose team was preparing over the weekend for a crucial Tuesday night match against the Seasiders.

“All these games in the ‘mini league’ are like Cup finals. Bangor, ourselves, Limavady United, Coagh United, Tobermore United and Loughgall are locked in battle in a bid to stay up.

“After the Ards match we have four games left and all of them are against teams who are just as desperate for the points as we are. And three of those games are away from home, so it is a bit of a dogfight right now.”

McConnell said for this weekend’s game under-12s will get free admission to Inver Park.

Added McConnell: “At 2pm, before the action starts, we will have a sale of all replica shirts and a good variety of other club merchandise and then, after the big game, at 5pm we will have live music in the club from Stuart Lunn, so I am urging everybody to join in what should be a carnival atmosphere – hopefully embellished by a good result against Ards.”